The Tennis Federation of Cambodia has officially designated Indian Davis Cup star and multiple grand slam doubles and mixed doubles winner Leander Paes their Tennis Ambassador as the Kingdom steps up to the International stage by hosting two back-to-back Men’s Futures events early next year.
37-year-old Paes, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics doubles bronze medalist who is currently ranked No 3 in men’s doubles with his Czech partner Lukas Diouhny, will squeeze in a quick one-day trip to Siem Reap on September 29 - directly in the middle of his Bangkok Open doubles engagement - to feature in the filming of a special CNN programme on the TFC as part of their monthly tennis show Open Court.
The Association of Tennis Professionals is understood to have given Paes, who is only the second man in history after Rod Laver to win Wimbledon titles in three different decades, a day off to make this short visit possible. The TFC has chalked out a grand reception during which Leander would be formally welcomed to the fold as global representative.
“We are proudly privileged to have a player of Leander’s stature promoting Cambodia’s tennis cause as we enter the international arena with the Kingdom’s Davis Cup participation next year a near certainty,” said TFC Secretary General Tep Rithivit yesterday.
The federation will hold an hour long “Play with Leander” programme for as many as eight boys and girls presently involved in school mini tennis programmes in Phnom Penh. An astroturf mini court will be set up in front of Angkor Wat temple for the kids to enjoy a knock up with this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon mixed doubles winner, who was honoured with India’s highest sports award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, as far back as 1997.
“I am sure this will be a thrilling experience for the kids, and there is no better way of introducing Leander to Cambodia and its culture than a round of tennis against the backdrop of one of the wonders of the world,” added Tep Rithivit.
International news broadcaster CNN are sending reknowned producer Chris Chaundcer and cameraman Kit Swartz for this assignment. Apart from filming the September 29 Leander Paes show, the two man crew will capture images at Cambodia’s National Training Centre where local tennis veteran Yi Sarun, a killing fields survivor, will take on an ex-patriot player in an exhibition match. Interviews are also slated with Tep Rithivit and Cambodian Country Club president Van Sou Ieng, who donated a free lease of some of the club’s land for the National Training Centre.